It’s no secret that New York is one of the most expensive cities to live in in the United States. According to GoBankingRates, the average annual salary needed to live a comfortable life in NYC is around $86,000. In fact, the cost of living in New York is so high that compared to San Francisco (another notoriously expensive city), the purchasing power of New Yorkers is 16%. So, $75,000 in New York is equivalent to around $96,000 in San Francisco!
When people think of expensive districts in New York, there is one that immediately comes to mind: Manhattan! It’s not hard to understand why: based on a Kiplinger survey, the cost of living in the city was 148% higher compared to the average cost of any other major U.S. city.
However, there are some truly amazing reasons why you should consider living in Manhattan such as the extensive parks, good school system, and one-of-a-kind tourist attractions. After all, you can’t really say that you’ve ever lived in New York City if you’ve never visited the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building. What’s more, Manhattan has arguably some of the most incredible food, fashion, and shopping experiences you can find in the United States.
While the average cost of a 1-bedroom apartment in Manhattan is around $3,600, that doesn’t mean you won’t find cheaper options if you know where to look. So, if you’re in the market for the cheapest places to live in Manhattan, look no further!
Here are the top five most affordable Manhattan neighborhoods.
- Washington Heights
- Hamilton Heights
(Median monthly rent: $1,650 for a one-bedroom apartment)
Home to the NYC renaissance movement in the 1920s, Harlem has always been synonymous with black culture. African-American music, food, and culture made up the soul of Harlem, and some of the most celebrated jazz musicians such as Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong regularly performed here.
Today, you’ll find a tightly-knit community that celebrates its history and heritage on every block. Generations of families have made their roots in Harlem, and there is a strong sense of camaraderie in the locals. Residents are warm, welcoming, and always happy to share their history with visitors and newcomers alike.
Harlem is one of the most important locations in the civil rights movement, with major streets that pay homage to figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. It’s not uncommon to find guided tours for those who want to learn more about the neighborhood’s rich history. You can also visit iconic landmarks such as The Apollo Theater where you can catch a play or even a standup comedy show, or Sylvia’s Restaurant where you can grab a bite of genuine soul food.
(Median monthly rent: $1690 for a one-bedroom apartment)
Manhattan’s northernmost neighborhood, Inwood is a popular choice for starter families and empty-nesters who are looking for affordable housing options. It is surrounded by two rivers: the Hudson River and the Harlem River. The influx of families has transformed the neighborhood into one of the safest places in Manhattan, with an 86% drop in major crimes over the years.
There is no shortage of green spaces in Inwood, and you’ll find that this neighborhood has a quiet and calm atmosphere that’s perfect for families, seniors, and singles. The population is largely Dominican, so you’ll find great places to sample Latin American cuisine. Many of the stores are small family-owned businesses that have been passed down through generations. Considering the large young demographic, it's no surprise that this neighborhood also has some of the least expensive options when it comes to housing, dining, and entertainment.
Most of the socializing in Inwoods happens outdoors, and you’ll always find yourself within walking distance of an open-air attraction. Inwood Hill Park, the largest public park in the neighborhood, is perfect for jogging, biking, and taking your dog for walks. You can also spend a lazy afternoon at the Inwood Canoe Club if you want to go fishing or paddling. Thinking of working up a sweat with your friends? Head on over to Columbia University’s Baker Athletics Complex to shoot some hoops or play some soccer.
(Median monthly rent: $1,850 for a one-bedroom apartment)
Washington Heights is a hilly and quiet neighborhood located in Manhattan’s northern area. Visiting this neighborhood will feel like you’ve stepped back in time, as there are a number of pre-war buildings being used for both commercial and residential purposes. Much of the neighborhood borders the Hudson River, so be prepared for some of the best sunset views you’ll get anywhere in New York City.
Washington Heights is pretty much next door to Inwood, which is why you’ll find a similar lifestyle and vibe. The population is also largely Dominican, so there is a thriving Latin American food and music scene. You’ll never have to go far to find a great place to eat or drink with friends! What’s more, with nearby schools such as City College and Columbia University, there is a huge student population that makes the neighborhood lively and friendly.
Just like in Inwood, many of the attractions in Washington Heights are outdoors. Fort Washington Park is a great place to spend a weekend during the summer months to go biking or have a barbecue. For history buffs, go visit Little Red Lighthouse, one of the city’s oldest lighthouses. After a tiring day out, make sure to visit Coogan’s, an Irish pub that’s known as the local watering hole.
(Median monthly rent: $1,900 for a one-bedroom apartment)
Before you ask, yes, Hamilton Heights IS named after the area’s most famous one-time resident: Alexander Hamilton. However, Hamilton isn’t the only notable figure who once called this neighborhood home, as musical greats such as Count Basie and Oscar Hammerstein also once lived in Hamilton Heights. Due to the low crime rate and affordable apartments, this neighborhood is popular with young professionals and starter families who love the “small town in a big city” feel.
Since Hamilton Heights is bordered by Harlem on the east and Washington Heights on the north, you can expect that you will find a hybrid of black and Latin American cultures here. Jazz bars are situated beside restaurants serving Latin American fare, and many of the businesses are owned by locals. This affordable neighborhood is also popular with students and young professionals.
Riverbank State Park is a busy place where you can experience the closeness of this neighborhood in Manhattan first-hand. There’s always a pickup game going on, as well as other choices of outdoor activities such as track fields and playgrounds. Sofrito, the on-site restaurant, serves some of the best Puerto Rican fare you’ll find in New York City. If you have a free afternoon, take part in the Harlem One Stop Walking Tours to get to know about hidden gems like boutique stores and historic churches.
(Median monthly rent: $2,800 for a one-bedroom apartment)
Located in central Manhattan, Gramercy is a family-friendly neighborhood where you will feel instantly at home. Take note that Gramercy is different from Gramercy Park, which is the exclusive, members-only enclave located in the heart of the area. Most of the rental options in this NYC neighborhood are aimed towards families, so it might be hard to find a one-bedroom apartment. The apartment prices in Gramercy are somewhat more expensive compared to nearby neighborhoods because of the focus on exclusivity and luxury living.
The whole of Gramercy feels like one big well-kept street with its clean streets and greenery bursting from every homefront. The locals are proud of the family-focused vibe, so this one of the most affordable Manhattan neighborhoods for families looking to establish roots and empty-nesters.
There are few tourist attractions in Gramercy, and its atmosphere is perfect for those who are looking for a quiet and peaceful place to live. There are several gourmet restaurants that have set up shop here, such as Todd English and Danny Meyer, so if you’re looking for a great brunch place, Gramercy is the place to go in NYC.
Now that you know where to find affordable neighborhoods in Manhattan, it’s time for you to find the perfect NYC apartment! You can make the job easier by chatting with Alex the Alpacabot. Whether you need a cable-ready apartment or an apartment with a quick lease-start date, Alex will find the best apartment for you.